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Freight Class: What is and How To Determine LTL Freight Class

freight class warehouse

Today we continue our ongoing series covering less than truckload freight by informing you what is a freight class and how you choose one of the 18 various freight classes. Previously, in our LTL series, we covered what is LTL shipping and the history, what are the benefits of less than truckload shipping, and yesterday we talked about the 10 factors that make up LTL freight rates.

Determining your shipments freight class is a vital step to effectively managing LTL freight as it is a big factor in determining your freight hard costs, but also is a very important factor when it comes to dealing with any possible freight claims. Additionally, the most common problems we hear in the consultation portion of sales calls at Cerasis are often related to not understanding what freight class to choose. We often hear things like, “Well I just pick Class 55 for all my freight. It’s just what I have always done.” What the customer is not understanding is hurting them in the long run because sometimes they may save money by picking a lower class, but then what happens is time is wasted when the carrier reclasses and the invoice doesn’t match the expected costs, making a traffic manager seem ineffective. A little education, especially when it comes to freight class, can really help you save not only money but time, resources, and most importantly avoid delays in getting freight inbound or outbound to your customer.

What is a Freight Class?

freight class NMFTA Freight Class: What is and How To Determine LTL Freight ClassFreight classes are designed to help you get common standardized freight pricing for your shipment when working with different carriers, warehouses and brokers.   Freight classes are defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and made available through the NMFC or National Motor Freight Classification.

In the United States, each commodity or type of product is assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and corresponding class for less than truckload (LTL) freight shipments.  The (NMFC) system is a standardized method designed to give consumers a uniform pricing structure when transporting freight. There are 18 classes that a shipped package may fall under with class 50 being the least expensive, to class 500 as the most expensive. The number assigned to an item is important to freight carriers in determining the tariffs, which in turn determine the price charged to the customer.

What Factors Go into Determining Freight Class?

Before you determine your freight class for your shipment, you must identify certain factors about your specific freight. Freight class is based on weight, length and height, density, ease of handling, value and liability from things like theft, damage, break-ability and spoilage.. The definitions for each are as follows:

  1. (Weight, Length, Height) Density and Value: Density guidelines assign classification 50 to freight that weighs 50 pounds per cubic foot. The Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB) assigns classifications 70, 92.5, 175 and 400 to freight with densities of 15, 10.5, 5, and 1 pound per cubic foot, respectively. Freight less dense than 1 pound per cubic foot is classified as 500. The density is the space the item occupies in relation to its weight. The density is calculated by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet. Your item’s volume in cubic feet is Length x Width x Height/1,728, where all dimensions are measured in inches. The density of your item = Weight/Volume, where Weight is measured in pounds and Volume is measured in cubic feet.
  2. Stow-ability: Most freight stows well in trucks, trains and boats, but some articles are regulated by the government or carrier policies. Some items cannot be loaded together. Hazardous materials are transported in specific manners. Excessive weight, length or protrusions can make freight impossible to load with other freight. The absence of load-bearing surfaces makes freight impossible to stack. A quantifiable stow-ability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying these items.
  3. Handling: Most freight is loaded with mechanical equipment and poses no handling difficulties, but some freight, due to weight, shape, fragility or hazardous properties, requires special attention. A classification that represents ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight is assigned to the items.
  4. Liability: Liability is probability of freight theft or damage, or damage to adjacent freight.
    Perishable cargo or cargo prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion is classified based on liability and assigned a value per pound, which is a fraction of the carrier’s liability. When classification is based on liability, density must also be considered.

What are the 18 Different Types of Freight Class?

Class Name Cost Notes, Examples Weight Range Per Cubic Foot
Lowest Cost Fits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, very durable over 50 lbs
Class 55 Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring 35-50 pounds
Class 60 Car accessories & car parts 30-35 pounds
Class 65 Car accessories & car parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes 22.5-30 pounds
Class 70 Car accessories & car parts, food items, automobile engines 15 to 22.5 pounds
Class 77.5 Tires, bathroom fixtures 13.5 to 15 pounds
Class 85 Crated machinery, cast iron stoves 12-13.5 pounds
Class 92.5 Computers, monitors, refridgerators 10.5-12 pounds
Class 100 boat covers, car covers, canvase, wine cases, caskets 9-10.5 pounds
Class 110 cabinets, framed artwork, tablesaw 8-9 pounds
Class 125 Small Household appliances 7-8 pounds
Class 150 Auto sheetmetal parts, bookcases, 6-7 pounds
Class 175 Clothing, couches stuffed furniture 5-6 pounds
Class 200 Auto sheetmetal parts, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged matresses, 4-5 pounds
Class 250 Bamboo furniture, mattress and boxspring, plasma tv 3-4 pounds
Class 300 wood cabinets, tables, chairs setup, model boats 2-3 pounds
Class 400 Deer antlers 1-2 pounds
Class 500 – Low Density or High Value Highest Cost Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls Less than 1 lbs

A Practical Example to Determine LTL Freight Class

Shippers can determine the appropriate NMFC for a commodity in different ways:

As seen below, the NMFC for plastic hose or tubing is 51140.

freight class hose 1024x416 Freight Class: What is and How To Determine LTL Freight Class

To properly freight class a shipment of 1 pallet of BO528112035PSL hose, we need to know the pallet dimension and weight.  This product ships on a standard pallet that can be double stacked for shipment.  The dimensions are 48”Lx40”Wx45.5”H and the weight including pallet is 243.2 lbs.  Using the formula shown above (and repeated below with the numbers from our example) we derive a PCF of 4.8 PCF.  Therefore using the table above our freight would be NMFC class 51140-4 rated at class 150.

  • PCF calculation for a full pallet of 32 cartons of BO528112035PSL
    •  Length x width x height = cubic inches (48”x40”x45.5”=87,360 cubic inches)
    • Cubic inches/1728 = cubic feet   (87,360/1728 = 50.6 cubic feet)
    • Divide weight of the packing unit by the volume. (243.2 lbs /50.6  cubic feet = 4.8 pounds per cubic foot)

Again, it is VERY important as a shipper of freight you understand freight class. Getting it wrong will cost you. If you incorrectly classify your item to be shipped it can be reclassified by the freight carrier. Disputing this is difficult, time consuming and you will be charged the difference (usually without a discount).

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